I hit the search button and google threw back its few results, many of which made me smile. 4.1 miles I thought, in 24 hours, how hard can that really be? I mentioned the idea as a silly one to a few friends, and friends being friends with the inclusion of a drink or two I caved in to agreeing to give it a go.
A week later a very lovely looking box had been dumped on my desk, I peeked into it trying not to cause any general raising of eyebrows in the office. There he was, my bright red, smiley faced 65CM space hopper Keith (he’s got horns too!)
That evening I raced home and pumped him up to all his glory. There he stood proud, loud and dam happy. I think I’d be happy to be a space hopper, who could hate them? Then it struck me, HOW WOULD I TRAIN? WHERE WOULD I GO? The thought of spending a few hours bouncing around Blackheath made me realise this was indeed a foolish idea, the decision was made, wing it on the day (a standard practise for men you’ll find)
So, with a date set, a charity to raise funds for and my support team (my darling Jana, we’d been dating three months god knows what she was thinking) My birthday was the focus and why not, it’s not every day you plan to break a world record is it? As the last train pulled up at Charing Cross we hopped off and made our way to the arena of choice. It had to be somewhere flat where I could celebrate afterwards and where we could attract interest to raise funds for the charity.
St James park, where else. 1.3 miles round the outside. Three and a bit laps and the record was mine. I set off at 1am Saturday morning, the idea being to not get seen in the dark and making a fool of myself was most appealing, but also to avoid blistering heat of Britain in late July. I set off at the gates on the mall 3/5ths of the way down going towards the Queens gaff, and by time I’d made it round to the first corner I questioned if one lap was at all possible let alone the record.
The first lap alone brought tears, not from pain, but joy. Two rather interesting fellows approached us started chatting away and donated £8. They turned out to be homeless and gave us their evenings begging money, I rested on Keith and had a little cry. That act alone made my Birthday.
First lap down, many many more to go, with the sun threatening to slowly show its self I slowly very slowly bounced my way round my second lap. Jana, following close behind mostly laughing, calling me an idiot and taking pictures, below had to be one of my all-time favourites…
Entering lap three and it was safe to say chaffing was an issue, the place where hair and layers of skin should be was now replaced with baby soft smooth raw skin, which as it goes wasn’t at all helpful… with the sun fully in the sky and now the added pressure of people watching and the sweat making Keith’s horns, well, moist.
Other unforeseen issues had arisen, turns out the more you bounce on a space hopper the quicker the air comes out and the more out of shape they get. Repeated stopping and blowing up of Keith was a 30 minute regular rest break, making the going even slower. Luckily Laura showed up with a birthday cake which allowed me an official stop (everyone knows everything stops for cake, especially birthday cake) fuelled up and on I continued and soon came to know that eating after spending 10 hours on a space hopper and then space hoppering (is that even a word?) isn’t best associated with eating Birthday cake. After the long back straight where few people walked I got back onto Birdcage walk just this road and I’d turn down to finish my third lap and hit the 3.9 mile mark.
By now my friends were gathering, pressure was mounting and people were donating, taking pictures and generally looking confused….
After a rest at the three lap point the decision was made to beat the record and call it a day so I could bask in my glory, the route was mapped 0.4 miles. Down the Mall turn left like I had three time previously and past the raised gardens on the left and through my make shift toilet paper finish barrier!
I was broken, can you imagine squatting for what was now 12 hours (breaks excluded) then my Mr Motivator came along, a 10 year old boy in a wheel chair. Our eyes met and it was clear this was GAME ON, we lined up at the first tree I counted down and away we went. My start wasn’t at all of any Olympic space hopper standard and he beat me. “best of three” I said, he beamed at the chance to race and beat a fully gown adult on a space hoper, not once but twice. The tree lined mall made for a perfect point to point racing track, again we lined up, I counted down and before I could finish we was gone. The chance of me catching him up has he giggled and sped away, his little arms powering him along to his second and first illegal victory…
Said adjudicator called it a false start so again we lined up, I had a second chance and after all I was getting race by race closer to Buckingham Palace. This time I’d got my game on and we were neck and neck until my all or nothing attempt, well, ended in nothing, nothing but me hitting the deck to cheers of the crowd. I’d not only been beaten but it was the world’s first test and proof that a wheel chair is faster than a space hopper. I dusted myself down and popped myself back on Keith, now I could hear the bustle of tourists at Buckingham palace; I’d gone through the record distance and was setting my own goals now.
As I bounced exhausted around the corner and through what seemed like a wall of giants my friends, my dam amazing friends had lined up and made me a finish line. The first time in my life I crossed a finish line in first place, I didn’t care if I was the only competitor all I could think was Bloody Idiot, I’m not doing that again, never again.
It turns out sadly my information was in fact wrong, the record stood at 5.1 miles, I was gutted I’d had the wrong information and after stopping with still 9.30 on the clock to go I could, I’m sure have beaten that record. But I don’t know anyone that’s spent their 35th birthday or any birthday space hopping around St James Park for longer than some people might think they can run.
Some 18 months have now past, and, well I have unfinished business. Not with Keith mind, he wasn’t in the best of shape. But I tell you what, I have his brothers and I’ve not just learnt my lessons I’m now the uk’s if not the worlds foremost expert on endurance space hopping.
Read my hints on endurance space hopping HERE:
It’s not the title I set out for but it’ll suit me fine, dam fine. I guess when you set out on a dream without realising you can create something you didn’t even know existed, so here’s to pursuing your dream no matter how big or how silly, if nothing else it’ll make a great story around the dinner table one day…..